Whistleblower fired: the minister Lamontagne acknowledges his error

Lanceur d'alerte congédié: le ministre Lamontagne reconnaît son erreur

MONTREAL — The minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has admitted to having made a mistake by endorsing the dismissal of a whistleblower.

André Lamontagne has summoned the media on Monday morning in Montreal, to “make the point on the dismissal of an employee” of the MAPAQ. He has in fact described the decision as “administrative,” and has asked the ombudsman to open an investigation.

The minister asked that the investigation will check if the process surrounding the dismissal has been met, that the rights of the agronomist Louis Robert have been respected and that it has not been the subject of retaliation related to his denunciations.

“I made a mistake last week, when, in point of press I took on my shoulders the weight of this decision that, in reality, was an administrative decision”, admitted the minister Lamontagne.

The politician says that in the heat of the action, the reflexes of a contractor came up and that he is “gone to the stick” to defend his team to the direction of the MAPAQ.

“In fact, I have neither fired nor authorized the dismissal of Mr. Robert,” corrected the minister in acknowledging that, according to the rules of operation, it is not the boss of the employees of the department.

At the same time, as the minister does not hire and don’t lay off, André Lamontagne maintains that it does not have the authority to restore its functions to the agronomist.

In order to clarify the course of events, the minister said he was aware of the sanction that would be applied to Louis Robert. He said that he has requested details on the process.

According to the minister, these are people from the ministry of Employment, assisted by other officials of the Treasury and Justice, who have evaluated the employee’s file and ultimately recommended his termination.

“This process appeared to me to be rigorous and full of precautions”, he judged.

Expert in the grain industry, Louis Robert had denounced the interference of the private in the public research on the use of pesticides.

He was sacked on the 24th of January to have transmitted a confidential document to a reporter, as well as to have violated his obligations of confidentiality, according to the letter of dismissal made public.

Public confidence

The minister André Lamontagne has not specifically requested the public protector to investigate the allegations of the whistleblower, but he hopes it will.

In the Face of the turmoil, the minister said, “understanding that public confidence would be shaken” to the law adopted in 2017 with the aim of protecting whistleblowers.

Under the current law, a person may choose to communicate the information to the responsible of the monitoring of disclosures of his or her department or to the ombudsman.

The CÉROM is accountable

In regard to the revelations of the disturbing of the whistleblower, the minister says they have asked the MINISTRY to demand accountability at the Centre of research on grain (CÉROM).

According to the agronomist deemed to Louis Robert, the researchers would be subject to pressures and even intimidation on the part of the private sector. Many experts have deserted the CÉROM in recent years.

André Lamontagne advance be ready to pull the plogue” on the public funding paid to the organization if it does not meet the three criteria that it deems fundamental. The minister insists that the CÉROM should show a white paw in the use of public funds, scientific independence of researchers and of rules of governance.

“The MAPAQ grant funding on an annual basis by asking the CÉROM commitments. It is not in a position where they will engage for years,” he said. Among the recriminations of the agronomist Louis Robert, there are the public statements made by the president of the CÉROM, Christian Overbeek, who is also the chairman of the grain Producers of Quebec.

In contrast to the conclusions drawn by the own researchers of his body and those of hundreds of other researchers around the world, Mr. Overbeek has minimized in the past, the danger of pesticides, neonicotinoids.

The minister Lamontagne said question “on the merits” of certain statements of the past and added that this will be part of the questions posed to the organization.

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